By Delly Bagu – EM TV, Port Moresby
The Sepik Plain Economic Zone is set to kick off after intense negotiations between the government and foreign investors.
At a recent media conference, Minister for Trade, Commerce and Industry and member for Yangoru-Saussia, Richard Maru, said feasibility studies are progressing well.
Minister Maru said a number of different foreign investors have expressed keen interest to enter into a joint venture with the national government to develop oil palm and other crops in the Sepik Plains, in the East Sepik Province.
He explained that the Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC) holds the State’s shares through the Sepik Agro Industries Limited, which will hold shares in any joint venture investment in the Sepik Plains.
The state will be taking up 30 per cent in each project, to partner the investors to show the national government’s support for the projects and to also mitigate perceived sovereign risk, with foreign investors coming to make significant investments in Papua New Guinea.
Mr Maru expects that heads of agreements and physical work on the new economic projects in the economic zone will commence this year.
The Minister also confirmed that negotiations with Wilmar International Limited has stopped because the government cannot agree to the concessions the previous contractor, Wilmar International, was seeking.
In the meantime, the Yangoru-Saussia District has begun preparing for the economic zone and its impacts; building roads and investing in electricity, and law and order.
While the government is developing the Sepik Economic Zone, it is also in the early stages of developing similar agriculture based Special Economic Zones in the Baiyer River, Gulf and Western Provinces under the minister’s leadership.